FREITAG Makes Backpacks Out of Airbag Fabric

The Swiss company promises that they will not explode.


Simon Habegger for FREITAG

In what they call "guaranteed non-explosive news," FREITAG announced a new line of backpacks, the F707 STRATOS, made from a bit of its usual material: discarded truck tarps and the fabric used to make airbags used in cars.

Group of bags

Oliver Nanzig for FREITAG

We have long been fans of FREITAG's bags made of recycled materials; they are expensive, but last forever. (Full disclosure: I have one and love it.) Treehugger writer David DeFranza described how they are made and wrote that "Freitag shows that a business can succeed with a plan that emphasizes responsible, sustainable behavior—for the environment, employees, and company as a whole." I went shopping in Berlin and described how they are marketed, which is tough when every bag is different.

truck with tarp
Tarp-sided trailer on Autobahn.

Lloyd Alter

Truck tarps are getting harder to find, as more and more European trucks and trailers get hard sides like North American trailers. But there is a big supply of airbag material. We wondered if this came from recycled airbags–there are untold millions of those thanks to a major recall, but FREITAG tells Treehugger no:

"The fabric used for the new FREITAG pop-out backpack was originally intended to be an airbag that would explode in an emergency and save lives. Unfortunately, it narrowly failed one of its many quality tests and was rejected. Both the yarn and the weaving mill we use are in Germany."
3 ways to carry bag
Three ways to carry the bag.

Simon Habegger for FREITAG

It does call its F707 Stratos "a lightweight backpack that doubles as a shoulder bag and, when you need it, unfolds from the tarp pocket as fast as an exploding airbag." Given that airbags deploy at the equivalent of 200 miles per hour, that's either a creative license or a very quick-opening backpack.

"So, while the A-stock stuff, the authentic airbag material, has long been packed in behind a steering wheel, literally waiting for an accident to happen, our B-stock fabric has been living the good life. One full of the purpose you give it and free of fear from the sudden “Boom!”. Not as a lifesaver. Not as an airbag. But, finally, believe it or not, as a bag."

Ever since 1993, when Markus and Daniel Freitag were scrubbing used tarps in their Zurich apartment bathtub, their marketing has been interesting and fun, and this strange video of exploding airbags is no exception.

"The crew of zweihund scripted and brought a bizarre, non-traditional film to life. An airbag in the wrong place at the wrong time, intentionally embedded in incoherent moments and absurd situations, purposefully far away from the FREITAG universe. The story is stretched like an arc until the end, and the sorted-out airbag finally finds its new vocation."
holding bag while standing on rail

Simon Habegger for FREITAG

FREITAG is in many ways the perfect Treehugger product, made with recycled materials in their hometown of Zurich, designed and marketed with style. Readers always get upset when we note the price—this bag is $220. But again, Zurich is not a cheap place to make stuff. According to the Economist Magazine's Big Mac Index, which compares the relative price of burgers around the world, the Swiss currency is overvalued by 24.7%. And although airbags only actually do their job once, inflating and deflating in 1/25 of a second, it's likely that the FREITAG F707 Stratos will last longer than that.